The US government has finally been allowed to deport former Nazi concentration camp guard Jakiv Palij, after a special German government dispensation. The 95-year-old Mr Palij is now in a nursing home in the Münsterland region.
The German foreign minister Heiko Maas said Mr Palij's deportation ‘sends a clear signal of Germany's moral responsibility." The case has been the subject of complex legal and diplomatic negotiations between the US and German governments since at least 2004. Born in Poland in 1923, he was trained by the SS in the Trawniki concentration camp in southeastern Nazi-occupied Poland in 1941. So-called ‘Trawniki men’ went on to participate in the Holocaust as guards in Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka concentration camps. Mr Palij emigrated to the US as a war refugee in 1949 and became a naturalized citizen in 1957. But in 2003, a federal judge in New York stripped him of his citizenship on the grounds that he had concealed his service at an SS slave-labor camp. The New York judge said that on November 3 and 4, 1943 'in a brutal spate of killing,' other units 'slaughtered Trawniki's entire inmate population' of some 6,000 Jewish civilians.' A deportation order was issued in 2004, but he was never deported, despite constant demands.
Lack of evidence
According to German newspaper FAZ, the German Interior Ministry issued an order to allow Mr Palij's entry based on a special dispensation of its residency law allowing a foreign national to enter the country ‘to preserve the political interests of the Federal Republic of Germany’ or for ‘international legal reasons.’ Reports suggest the case against Mr Palij was not strong, as there is no evidence he had served anywhere other than Trawniki. The German state's own investigations were halted in 2016 for lack of evidence, and the burden of evidence for accessory to murder under the German criminal code is greater than for stripping someone of citizenship. The German judiciary has been infamously reluctant to prosecute Holocaust perpetrators, but a turning point was achieved in 2011 with the conviction of another Trawniki man, Ukrainian-born John Demjanjuk, on charges of accessory to murder in 28,060 cases.